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Failure to Diagnose Cancer at the Outset

Jun 28, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

Can a person file a medical malpractice case against his or her doctor, if the doctor was unable to diagnose the cancer earlier, and the patient had to undergo chemotherapy because of this delay in the diagnosis?

Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer when it could have been Diagnosed

The scenario is a medical malpractice case where the victim has sued her doctor for failing to diagnose her lung cancer early. The plaintiff’s lawyer has the opportunity to question this doctor during the pretrial question and answer session known as the deposition. The lawyer will want to focus on one of the key areas, which is how the treatment would have been different if his client’s condition was diagnosed earlier.

How the Treatment and Prognosis would be Different

Typically, this would be the line of questioning by the plaintiff’s lawyer:

· Is it true that at this stage the patient has been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer?

· Isn’t this the most severe and advanced type of metastatic cancer?

· Does it mean that the cancer has now spread beyond the lungs and the patient’s prognosis is dim?

· Does the patient now have very limited life expectancy?

· If the patient had been diagnosed earlier with cancer when it was still stage 1, would not the prognosis be significantly better than what it is now?

· Is it true that for stage 1 cancer there are different modalities of treatment that are effective in eliminating the cancer?

· At stage 1, is not the cancer localized and can it not be surgically removed?

· Is it true that a patient diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer does not need chemo therapy for treating the condition and only the surgical removal of the affected part would suffice?

At this juncture the doctor might start to argue about the specific type of cancer, and whether chemo therapy or radiation therapy might be necessary. However, the bottom line is that the plaintiff’s lawyer will ask the doctor a key question about how treatment would be different because these items are vital to show to the jury later on during the trial.

Using a Doctor’s Testimony at the Trial

If the case goes to trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer can use the doctor’s deposition testimony to present to the jury two incredible points. One is that his client now had to undergo complex and harmful treatment procedures such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy because the doctor was unable to diagnose the lung cancer earlier. Secondly, and most importantly, the patient did not have a bright prognosis even with such treatments since the cancer had now spread beyond the lungs.

The jury will be made to understand that if the doctor had diagnosed lung cancer earlier, the patient would most probably have been cured by transitioning through a surgical procedure, and even after the surgery, the patient would not need chemotherapy.

Based on this viewpoint, a doctor can be sued for medical malpractice if he has failed to diagnose cancer earlier, when it was possible for him to do so. The damages will be based on the complexities of later treatment and the unenlightening prognosis.